Best Bird Watching Equipment You Can Start With

If you want to spot lots of different birds, from the cardinal to the hummingbird, then firstly, you’re going to need the right equipment for the job. 

Yes, you could just walk out aimlessly into the wild and hope for the best, but this isn’t usually deemed the best idea. 

If you’re going to be a bird spotter, then it pays to do it properly. No, this doesn’t mean breaking the bank. 

There are plenty of affordable products out there to help get you started. So, keep on scrolling to find out what equipment you’ll need to get going. 


Binoculars

If you want to zoom in on that perching robin, then you’re going to need a pair of these. 

As with everything, when it comes to buying the best pair of binoculars, then there is an array of good, bad, and ugly versions out there.

An important feature to consider is magnification. In simple terms, the higher the numbers, the better the magnification range is. 

Check if it has waterproof and fog-proof lenses, and also do your research on if it’s compact or on the bulky side. 


The 12×42 Lightweight binoculars – Adorrgon

These binoculars look the part, and even better, they’re under $40 – bargain! They only weigh 1.1 pounds, which makes them a breeze to carry around, and they have an anti-slip grip. 

They may be small, but they don’t compromise on features, as they have a 12x powerful magnification, 42mm large objective lens, and up to 1000yds field of view. 

Even in weak light conditions, these binoculars can deliver clear vision, making them perfect for early morning, or late afternoon bird spotting strolls. 

The large 16.5mm BAK4 Prism and fully multi-coated lens provide brighter, crisper, and more vivid images. 

Also included are an eyepiece, lens protection cover, cleaning cloth, carrying case, and neck strap. 

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Lightweight
  • Great focus
  • Clear optics
  • Adjustable eyecups
  • Comfortable to hold
  • Long-range vision
  • Easy to use
  • Included accessories

Cons

  • Lack of wider adjustment options
  • Visible glare
  • Not entirely fog-proof
  • Binocular straps too short

Overview

This budget-friendly product is great for beginners. It’s portable, easy to use, and has plenty of handy features to optimize your bird spotting experience. 

Last update on 2024-04-23  / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Field Guide

Whatever your location or bird of choice, there’s a guide book out there for that.

Yes, you could blindly step into the unknown and take a guess at what that bird you’ve spotted is but wouldn’t it be better to know for sure?

A field guide may seem old-school, but hey, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Sometimes, taking a step back from technology and finding out what that bird is the traditional way is not only great fun, but it’s also good for the mind. 


National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America – by Jonathan Alderfer & Jon L. Dunn 

Priced at $18.99, the 7th edition of this ever-popular book is a must-have for bird spotters in North America. 

With over 2.75 million copies in print, there’s a reason why this book is a bestseller. 

This version is full of stunning hand-painted illustrations, including the Leaf Warbler and the Western Sandpiper. 

This version has 16 new pages, 80 maps, and 350 map revisions, so you find out where the areas to spot that Broad-billed Hummingbird is. 

Pros

  • Beautiful artwork
  • Informative index for ease of use
  • Makes a great gift
  • Packed full of information
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Not pocket-sized
  • Inconsistencies in artwork quality
  • Small print
  • Fragile bookbinding

Overview

This affordable book contains plenty of beautiful hand-painted illustrations, as well as detailed maps and an easy to navigate index.

It’s great for beginners, experts, or to keep on your coffee table. 

Last update on 2024-04-23  / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Journal/Log Book

Keep track of your bird watching adventures with a journal.

Here you can log when and where you saw that Amazon Kingfisher, what sounds it made, and any standout markings it has. 

These are also handy if you’re struggling to identify that bird, as you can refer back to your notes when you return from your expedition. 

Keeping a journal is also a great way of reminiscing on previous bird spotting trips. 


The Sibley Birder’s Life List and Field Diary – by David Allen Sibley 

For just $12.86, step into bestselling author David Sibley’s world, and start your bird-spotting adventure today. 

Logging your bird sightings is made easy with the space for on-site notes, a life list, and a checklist.

List 923 species found across the USA and Canada, including the Corn Crake and the Zone-Tailed Hawk. 

Record when and where you saw them and any memories you have about the sighting. 

Pros

  • Plenty of logging space
  • Great life list
  • Good layout
  • Affordable 
  • Great for beginners
  • Makes a great gift

Cons

  • Cover may scuff
  • Upside down pages error
  • Some common birds not included
  • On the chunky side

Overview

It contains almost 1000 listed species of birds, so the chances are the one you’ve spotted is on the list.

If not, then there’s plenty of space to note down what you saw, and it’s only $12.86. 

Last update on 2024-04-23  / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Spotting Scope

If you want to look and feel like a pro (and be able to see that hawk from afar), then you’ll need to invest in a spotting scope. 

As well as having a greater range of field than binoculars do, these also allow you to see a bird up close and personal, and I’m talking see their feathers ruffle close. 


Angled Spotting Scope with Tripod – Emarth Store

This product is around the budget-friendly $115 price range.

The 20×60 magnification means you can zoom in on that bird and see feathers, beaks, and markings without having to move. 

The 45 degrees angled eyepiece has an ergonomic design that allows you to bird spot in comfort.

There’s also a 1000m field of view, which is great for bringing nature to you. 

The BAK4 lenses are fully multi-coated to deliver bright and clear images, even in low-light conditions. 

Its O-ring sealants prevent moisture, dust, and debris from sneaking inside the product, and the nitrogen gas filling protects the barrel from fogging up.

Pros

  • Great price
  • Compatible with most phones
  • Clear images
  • Great clarity
  • Easy to carry
  • Smooth focus
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Fades at longer ranges 
  • Not the best quality eye relief 
  • Not the most stable tripod

Overview

This is a great first scope option, as it’s affordable, easy to use, and is capable of producing some bright and clear images. 

Last update on 2024-04-23  / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Camera

A bird spotting camera allows you to take some pretty awesome pictures, regardless of the weather. 

Let’s face it; sometimes, your phone just won’t cut it. 

So, if you want to take some snaps that you can cherish forever and allow you to identify that bird, then investing in a bird camera makes sense. 

You need to consider some points, such as value for money, waterproof, lightweight, and does it have night vision?


Waterproof Camera – Campark Store

For $69.99, this camouflage-design camera can be yours. As well as being easy to mount, it’s waterproof, durable, and portable. 

Don’t miss a thing with the three sensors, which detect even the slightest of movements, and there’s a trigger distance of up to 65ft. 

Bird spot into the evening with the 3 PIR night vision and 42 pcs upgraded infrared LEDs. 

The 16MP means clearer and sharper images with 1080P high video resolution, and there’s a 120-degree wide-angle lens. 

Pros

  • Great price
  • Quality product
  • Lots of features included
  • Easy to use
  • Compact size
  • Good motion sensors
  • Waterproof
  • Great design
  • Includes sturdy wall mount

Cons

  • Battery not built-in
  • Short battery life
  • SD card slot tricky to use
  • Slideshow speed isn’t adjustable
  • Video recording issues

Overview

For the price, this camera is a good starter product. It’s easy to use, easy to mount, waterproof and has many features to play around with. 


Essential items to pack in your field bag/backpack?

Before you step out into the unknown, then it’s wise to be prepared. 

So, what items are a must-pack for any avid bird watcher?


Field Bag

Yeah, okay, so this may seem an obvious one, but it’s easy to forget about the bag and focus on the more interesting items.

The truth is that your field bag is important. 

The bigger it is, the more items you can take with you, while you still want something portable, comfortable, weather-resistant, and durable. 

This National Geographic Bag has plenty of compartments and is made of durable canvas material. 

Last update on 2024-04-23  / Commissions Earned / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Checklist

One way to make sure you remember everything you need is to create a checklist. 

Camera, tick. Binoculars, tick. Field guide, tick. 


Hat 

Whether you want to keep the sun out of your eyes, or keep your head cozy, whatever the weather, a hat is a necessity for those long bird spotting days. 


Sunglasses

Again, preparation is key, so stick a pair in your bag so you’ll have them if and when you need them. 


Water

Investing in a good quality water bottle is a must for all bird spotters. 

Staying hydrated is important, so a leaky water bottle just isn’t going to do the job. Here are some of the best options out there. 


Snacks

If your bird spotting involves long walks and some were hiking them, you’ll need fuel along the way. 

Therefore, it’s essential that you pack plenty of tasty snacks such as a fruit bowl, bananas, and jerky. 


Local map

Being lost is no fun, so take a map with you to avoid such situations. 

Remember that phone signals aren’t always reliable, and neither is your phone’s battery life. 

Bringing a map with you means you can scope out the area, resort back to it when needed, and have a backup if technology fails you. 


Insect repellant

Buzz!

Yeah, insect bites are capable of ruining anyone’s day. So avoid that itching feeling by taking some insect repellant with you. 


Gloves

Because having cold hands sucks! And it makes operating equipment tricky. 


Power bank

Your phone is great and all, until it runs out of battery – doh!

Be prepared by taking a power bank and cable with you, as you never know when you might need to make an emergency call.


Flashlight

Trying to navigate in the dark is on the dangerous side, so stick a flashlight in your bag just in case your morning bird spotting trip turns into a late-nighter. 


First aid kit

Accidents happen, and being out in the wild massively increases the chances of bumps and bruises. 

Okay, so a grazed knee and a nicked finger may not seem like a big deal, but untreated wounds lead to infections. 

So pack the essentials; I’m talking bandages, plasters, and antiseptic cream.  


Identification

It’s always a good idea to take some form of ID with you, especially if you’re bird spotting in new areas. 

The world’s a suspicious place at times, so it pays to be able to prove who you are, especially if you happen to stumble close to private land. 


Waterproof jacket

The weather forecast may give sun but let’s face it, the weather is an unpredictable force of nature. 

Don’t let those rain showers catch you off guard; instead, invest in a lightweight, waterproof jacket that you can easily pack away in your bag.


Footwear

Okay, so technically, you aren’t going to put these in your backpack, but it’s an important item. 

Bad footwear equals foot sores, ill-footing, and the likelihood of stepping in a puddle and ending up with soggy feet for the rest of the day – ew!


Conclusion

The world’s full of our feathered-friends, so go out, explore, and have fun spotting them. 

Yeah, just remember to take any bird watching equipment needed with you.

This doesn’t have to be an excessive amount of things.

A pair of binoculars and a journal is a good start for any beginners, and then more items can be added along the way. 

It’s advisable not to forget to pack your essential items, as being stuck in the middle of nowhere with no water or snacks doesn’t sound all that great!  

Julian Goldie - Owner of ChiperBirds.com

Julian Goldie

I'm a bird enthusiast and creator of Chipper Birds, a blog sharing my experience caring for birds. I've traveled the world bird watching and I'm committed to helping others with bird care. Contact me at [email protected] for assistance.